"Captain Corelli's Mandolin": a true story in the shadow of Louis De
Bernieres' 1995 novel
[Based on Christoph U. Schminck-Gustavus' "Kefallonia's Defeated"
(Greek edition by Smili, 1994 -- ISBN 960-7218-60-4)]
On September 8, 1943, Italy capitulated and the bulk of the Italian army
occupying Greece surrendered to the Germans. The Western island of Kefallonia
was an exception: Amos Pambaloni (the real
life soldier who may be the inspiration for 'Captain Corelli') and other
officers decided to disobey orders and resist; after some fierce fighting, the
Germans took over the island and executed most of their
Thanks to a bullet fired at point blank range that went in and out of his
neck, Pambaloni survived and, having met partisan Marika Konstantaki (a
likely source for 'Pelagia') while in hiding, was led by her to her parents' house in the village of Faraklata;
her father Dionysios, Faraklata's priest, brought in a knowledgeable local
man who "cured" Pambaloni's wound with ouzo. Later on, Pambaloni joined
Greek partisans on the mainland.
As the sheltering of Pambaloni by the priest and his family became widely
known, the Germans retaliated by hanging his son
Aggelos from an olive tree in Faraklata's central square on October 24,
1943 ... on the pretext of having found a disassembled pistol in their house.
Father Dionysios delivered the holy communion to his son right before the
hanging; the decorated hero of the Albanian front refused to reveal to the
villagers the name of the traitor (who has since moved to Athens).
Half a century later, an iron cross
hanging from the fateful olive tree is a sore reminder of the tragedy.
The priest passed away in 1957 and his house is now in ruins, but 'Corelli'
is still alive and well in Florence. As for 'Pelagia', whose affair with
him appears to have been Platonic, she emigrated to the United States some
time after the war.
In a October 31, 1952 letter to Amos
Pambaloni (via an Italian officer searching for remains of Italian soldiers),
Father Dionysios writes, among other things: "We came to know each other
in times tragic and perilous, therefore we will always be true friends. My
wife always remembers you and sends you her cordial regards. I am looking
forward to your letter, even in Italian if you cannot write in Greek."
[Photos and letter taken from Prof. Christoph U. Schminck-Gustavus' book]
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